Friday, January 07, 2011

College upperclassman fail at scientific reasoning

Ars Technica has a nice article on how many college upperclassman in science majors still suck when it comes to scientific and/or formal reasoning.  When we're children, we come up with simplified explanations for observed events that fit our experiences and/or expectations, but those explanations are often incorrect.  But hey, nothing against our 5-year-old selves, what else can you expect without a more formal science education!  The hope is that we'd shrug off these inaccurate, inadequate explanations as we progress through our science education.  Unfortunately, that's not happening nearly as often as we'd like.

I'll let you read the article on Ars for some of the details, but one thing in particular caught my eye (emphasis mine):

What's the root of this problem? The authors ascribe a lot of it to language. It's quite common to hear people describe fat as just melting away or vanishing, which doesn't encourage anyone to try to balance the books on where all those atoms actually go to, much less get them thinking in terms of their release as carbon dioxide and water vapor. The same problem persists in the language commonly used by biologists. We frequently refer to energy as "lost" when it's no longer available to an organism, but that doesn't mean it's not still there, typically in the form of heat.

Very similar to what I discussed about Cryolipolysis, right?  I've heard cryolipolysis's effects described as "melting away" the fat, but melting it away in one area doesn't do anything if it only comes back to the same area or somewhere else to take up residence again!  Some scientific reasoning is all that is needed to know that cryolipolysis can't deliver on all of the promises described by some of its proponents.  Better scientific reasoning skills could save people a lot of money and disappointment on procedures like that!

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